Originally published in the Medicine Hat News
Medicine Hat’s police chief and chair of the police commission are pushing back against allegations they suppressed two internal surveys conducted by the city’s Human Resources department, which cast the force’s work environment in a negative light.
“Some people don’t like the results but there was nothing hidden,” chief Andy McGrogan, who initiated the surveys in 2017, said of the internal response.
“There seems to be people (who) think we haven’t been communicating with the police commission, which we have been. It’s an internal matter and I always inform the commission of all we do, so there’s no secrets. None.”
The first survey was specifically for female officers, which had just seven responses, and the second was for all employees of the police department. Both surveys were provided to the News by local paralegal Ken Montgomery.
According to the results of the initial survey, about 42 per cent of female officers either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, “Development opportunities are available equally to both male and female officers.” This is roughly equivalent to three of the seven officers who participated.
The survey also identified themes consistent among participants, including being the target of inappropriate comments and physical behaviour from male officers, a lack of trust and confidentiality, a sense that women officers are held to a higher standard than their male counterparts and a “boys club” atmosphere.
The second survey includes a word bubble of adjectives employees use to describe MHPS culture. Although ‘Awesome’, ‘Busy’ and ‘Team’ appear in the bubble, others described the environment as ‘Poison’, ‘Toxic’, ‘Cliquey’ and ‘Political’.
The results of its questionnaire portion reveal that 58 per cent of employees disagree with the statement, “Opportunities are provided equally for professional development” and 70 per cent disagree with the assertion, “The promotional process is fair and based on individual performance, seniority and merit.”
And 54 per cent disagreed with the statement that senior management, “Promotes a culture of inclusion and diversity,” although 57 per cent agreed that upper management, “Acts with integrity.”
Montgomery says he sought to obtain these documents based on issues some current and former MHPS employees brought to him confidentially.
“They’re upset and concerned,” he said, placing his allegations in the context of the ongoing discussion of bullying and harassment in the RCMP.
“If you see something wrong, you’re supposed to take a stand. I’m thinking of the good members of the Medicine Hat Police Service — past and present — who want to do their jobs right in a proper environment.”
The chief cast doubt on the veracity of allegations made by somebody outside the police force.
“He doesn’t know,” said McGrogan.
The results were presented to the commission, McGrogan says.
“There’s really nothing our governing body doesn’t know about our operations that is significant to know,” he said. “There seems to be some misconception that we have the raw data, but we did go to HR and ask them to keep the raw data and generalize.”
The results were provided to each member of the Medicine Hat Police Service, McGrogan added.
“We’ve made a number of changes,” he said, declining to provide specifics at this time.
“I can tell you the police commission knows everything I know.”
Commission chair Greg Keen said the oversight body was provided with the same survey data as MHPS members.
“From what I recall, it wasn’t just verbal. There would have been some sort of presentation given to us,” said Keen.
According to the minutes of the December 2017 meeting, McGrogan told the commission that as a result of the internal survey results, the MHPS will be updating its clothing and appearance policy, allowing officers to show tattoos and have facial hair.
Beyond that, there’s no mention of the surveys in the minutes since May 2017, when McGrogan told the commission he had initiated the second questionnaire.
In addition to the News, Montgomery addressed his report, including the survey results, to Keen, Mayor Ted Clugston and MLA Robert Wanner, among others.
Keen says he hasn’t seen any documents, but has had “some communication” with Montgomery via e-mail.
“He’s never brought up an issue with me.”